Today we’re going to be learning how to draw realistic clouds. If you follow Draw Central, you might remember that I did this tutorial a couple years back. This time, however, I’ll be showing you how to draw clouds digitally. Don’t worry if you’re using a pencil, colored pencil, or even paint—these tips will help you no matter what medium you’re using to draw clouds. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Choose Background Color
To start with, we are going to need a canvas color to make our white clouds stand out against the background. For this one, I chose just a standard sky blue.
Tip: If you’re drawing in pencil, or colored pencil, try drawing on darker toned paper and use a white colored pencil for highlighting. The extra contrast from the white pencil on dark paper will really make your clouds (or any drawing) pop.
Step 2: Outline
Next we need to map out the basic shape and placement of your clouds. For most types of clouds they are generally flatter on the bottom and more rounded on top. Of course, this isn’t always the case. So decide which type of cloud you’re going for before you make your outlines. I’ve included some reference photos so you can get an idea of the many different shapes of clouds that exist.
Cloud Reference Photos – Click to Enlarge
Step 3: Base Color
Give your clouds a base color which will serve as the darkest values in your clouds. I know that we usually imagine clouds as being completely white, but if you check out the reference images, you’ll actually see that they have plenty of shadows as well.
Step 4: Highlight Edges
Clouds interact with light just the same way as any other object, so you need to add light and shadow just like you would with any other object. Choose where your light source is coming from (in my case it is coming from the right), and add a bright white highlight along those edges.
Step 5: Blend Highlights
Now that you know what areas of your clouds will be highlighted, we will now need to blend those highlights toward the darker areas to give our clouds some volume. After you’ve blended the highlights, you can add a thin white outline around the highlighted edges to keep them crisp.
At this point your clouds should be just about finished. All that’s left to do is clean up your lines and make sure that the outlines of your clouds are clean and crisp. You can also blend a little white into the blue background to give the image an airy (hehe, get it?) feel.
Check out this video by Alphonso Dunn if you need a little extra help getting the shape and form right for your clouds. And be sure to like, comment, and share this post if it was helpful for you. Happy drawing!